Boosting Children’s Self-Esteem in Divorce

Boosting Children’s Self-Esteem in Divorce
Women and Divorce
Wendi Schuller
Author of
The Global Guide to Divorce

Divorce affects children in many ways, including changes in their lifestyles and schedules.

It can also impact their self-esteem, especially if the youngsters felt they were the cause of their parents’ separation. Reassure them that they are not to blame.

Talk to your kids and correct any misconceptions tied to divorce such as, “If I was better, my parents would still be together.” Discover the root cause of a lower self-esteem in order to know how to help.

After my parents’ divorce as a small child, my self-esteem dipped.

Although this coincided with the divorce, it was not related. My father found out it was because I was one of the last to be picked for a team in physical education class, due to my poor batting skills. On Sunday afternoons, my father had me practice both hitting and catching a baseball. With this vast improvement, I was wanted for teams and my self-esteem got back to normal.

A key way to boost self-esteem is by giving children opportunities to build up their strengths and talents. If they are athletic, sign them up for sports. If artsy, then for classes. When children become proficient in their hobby, new skill or interest, this increases confidence. Confidence in one area spills over into others and raises their self-esteem.

Having a healthy self-esteem comes from within and is not dependent upon a cheering squad to pile on compliments. The trick is to help the child feel good about themselves and not be reliant upon others to give them validation.

My sons increased their feeling of self-worth by volunteering. Both helped out at an animal rescue charity. If a kid is feeling unlovable, giving back to others will change this gloomy outlook. My boys felt appreciated by both the affectionate animals and other volunteers. Volunteering enables them to feel that they have some power to make a difference in the world.

There is a trend to boost self-esteem by telling each child that they are “special.” There are seven billion people in the world, so I make it a point to inform my sons that they are NOT special.

Merriam Webster dictionary’s definition of special is “distinguished by some unusual quality” which is more in line with Winston Churchill, Mother Teresa and David Bowie. Each person has talents and characteristics which are unique, same as fingerprints are unique.

The new generation of “special” teens and twenties is becoming a nightmare in the workplace, which is the topic of conversations between my sons and their friends.

These special people do not want to clean the loo, take out the trash or do menial chores that are perceived beneath them. They do not handle feedback or job evaluations well either, since they were bombarded with praise as kids.

It is a rude awakening for these “special” young people later in life, that the world does not owe them anything. Special implies special treatment, often with a sense of entitlement. I witness this over and over in the schools. A teacher told me that the children who are told they are special, are the ones who baulk at doing classroom chores. Another said youngsters can get used to receiving “unspecified praise.” Instead, praise them after a hard-earned accomplishment, as in winning a regional championship or a well-done performance.

Nurture your children during divorce with cuddles and attention. Do family activities together and have fun. Children feel more secure and know what to expect when boundaries are clear.

Our job as parents is to help kids feel good about themselves without a sense of entitlement and to respect others.

Ask kids periodically how they are feeling and if there are any issues. If you are sensing that their self-esteem is low or they are not adjusting to your divorce, consider having them see a child coach or therapist to help set them on the right path.


Wendi Schuller is a nurse, hypnotherapist and is certified in Neuro-linguistic Programing (NLP).

Her most recent book is The Global Guide to Divorce and she has over 200 published articles.

She is a guest on radio programs in the US and UK. Her website is


  1. Healthy self-esteem is like the foundation of the building and it is built in the relationship with attentive and present other. I totally agree with the suggestions in this post of what we can DO to help children have solid self-esteem. However I believe that the secret sauce that will nurture the child’s view of themselves is our way of BEING: presence, connection, being interested in the child, whilst we are doing those activities.

    • This comment is from Wendi:

      You are on target. When a parent helps a child build on their strengths and talents, they are right there with them. Helping a child feel good about themselves is giving them attention and encouragement. That is why this part of the article is so important “Nurture your children during divorce with cuddles and attention. Do family activities together and have fun.”
      Can’t count how many Tai Kwan Do classes and tournaments I attended to show support for my sons. Also with chess. Thanks for your comment.

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